February 3, 2014

To read this story in its entirety, please start here.

Part VIII by AL Parks:

Gracelyn turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. She dried off, wrapped the towel around her, and looked into the mirror. When had the small lines appeared at the corners of her eyes? She ran her hand through her long blond hair, grabbed a clip, and twisted it into a messy French twist.

She could not get the vision of her sister sitting on her bed. Meggie had said she believed Gracelyn, but then had bolted out of the room before Gracelyn could ask her sister what she had meant.

She dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, and padded softly down the hallway towards her father’s bedroom. Peeking around the corner, she let out a sigh seeing the empty chair next to the side of the bed. It had gotten darker in the room, and someone had turned on the small lamp that sat on the table next to the bed.

Making her way into the room, she slid onto the chair, and placed her hand into her father’s. Leaning in towards him, she kissed his forehead, and whispered, “Hi, Daddy. It’s me Gracelyn.”

He stirred, and then his eyes opened and fell softly on hers. They were glassy, and she could see he was trying to focus on her. Tears sat at the back of her eyes, and threatened to fall. No, she fought with herself, no tears. This was the first time her father was going to see her in six years, and she owed it to him to see the smile that he loved so much.

It was hard to believe that this man, that had been such a large presence in any room he occupied, was nothing more that skin and bones lying under the sheet and blanket. His hand felt cold in hers, and she pressed her lips to it and blew hot breath across his fingers. He opened his mouth to speak, and she saw that he mouthed her name, but no sound came out.

Gracelyn had no idea what to say to him. She wanted to apologize, wanted to explain why she had stayed away so long, wanted to beg his forgiveness. Instead, she leaned close to him, and gazed into his eyes. “I love you so much, Daddy.”

“Gracelyn…” he strained to voice.

“Shhh…Daddy, don’t talk. Save your strength,” Gracelyn soothed him, as she watched him struggle to speak.

“Have…to…tell…you…” Gracelyn leaned in to hear him better. He drew in a ragged breath that made her chest clench tightly. He was using his last bit of strength to communicate with her, when she had done her level best to avoid all communication with him over the past couple of years. Her heart fell into the acidic pit of her stomach. She wanted to run from him. She couldn’t stand to see him this way. And she had no idea how to say good-bye.

“Grace.” She turned her head towards the man, surprised to hear that name from him. “He is here for you. He is here to help you. Trust him.”

She stared at him for a moment, her mouth gapping open, trying to reconcile his words. No one other than Erik had ever called her Grace. And what was the cryptic message supposed to mean? Was it just the delusions of a dying man pumped full of morphine?

“Who, Daddy? Who is here for me?” She watched as tears gathered in the corner of his eyes, and rolled over his cheeks.

“Zach,” he answered, closed his eyes, and drifted off.

IX by Lori L. Clark

Gracelyn's eyes widened in surprise. How did her daddy know about Zach? 

Gracelyn's mother, Anna, had worked for Hospice when she was alive, and she often told her two daughters stories about some of the things people said just before they passed over. Or the things they claimed they saw.

Anna had told them that it wasn't unusual for the dying to claim loved ones who had preceded them in death, were in the room waiting to take them on to the other side, so they didn't have to make the journey alone. Some even claimed to see visions of beautiful angels at the foot of their bed.

Could that be what her father was talking about? Maybe, she decided. But it didn't explain how he knew about the young guitar player named Zach.

Gracelyn felt the warm tears slide down her cheek as she watched her daddy's chest fall and rise, each shallow breath a struggle. She rested her head on the bed beside their clasped hands and closed her eyes to pray.

After the things she'd learned about the church, and what Erick had been through, Gracelyn wasn't sure what to believe anymore, but she knew her daddy was a God-fearing man, so she sent a silent prayer up to the God her daddy believed in and mentally told her daddy it was okay for him to go now, to say hello to mama for her.

Exhausted, emotionally and physically, Gracelyn drifted into a fitful sleep. While she slept she dreamed of Erick. He sang for her, urging her to come closer with his beautiful smile. 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

"Erick. I've missed you so much," she told him as she reached out to touch his face. 

"It's okay Gracie. I'll see that your daddy gets to your mama safe and sound," he said softly.

Gracelyn sobbed and pleaded, "No, please don't go. Can't you stay for just a few more minutes?"

"I'm sorry Gracie, it's time. We have to go now. Zach will find you. Let him in Gracie girl," he said.

Her daddy appeared beside Erick and smiled a vibrant, healthy smile down at her. "Chin up Gracie. Zach..."

As her hand reached for them, they vanished into thin air.

Gracelyn woke with a start and sat up. She was alone. Her daddy had passed away while she dozed. She dried her tears and calmly stood. She kissed her daddy's forehead and went to find Joshua...

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Lori L. Clark

Lori L. Clark currently resides in Hazelwood, MO with three rescue dogs. When Lori isn't listening to the voices in her head, waiting for the next creative inspiration to strike, she also loves to read, run, paint pet portraits and save dogs. Email Lori at

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